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Globetrotting A to Z: Karnataka, India

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India and Indian culture are fast becoming what they should have become long ago: as alluring and popular as Tokyo and Japan were a decade ago.

Karnataka, a state in southwest India, is among the most touristed destinations in the country. Bangalore, the capital, is some 998 km from Mumbai (Bombay), another travelers' draw.

Although the state is new -- it was established in the 1950s but crestened "Karnataka" only in 1973 -- its population is the eighth largest in India at over 61 million.

What's the draw?

A roundtrip flight from LA to Bangalura Airport (Bangalore) will run you about $1500 per person if you fly mid-week in late summer. To justify the cost -- after all, Portland or Seattle are also beautiful this time of year -- one must focus on one word, experience.

Actor Bryan Cranston recently said in an interview that he was looking to accrue more experiences in life rather than things. Travelers would be wise to heed this advice. For, years from now, when you look back on your life you won't rue the $1500 love seat you didn't buy, but you will regret the trips you didn't take.

So go.

Here's why:

  • Mallikarjuna and Kasivisvanatha temples at Pattadakal: a UNESCO World Heritage site, these stunning ruins (see photo) have been extant since about 740 A.D. (the Mallikarjuna temple) and the Kasivisvanatha structure within the following two centuries.
  • Proximity to Bangalore: Why is this a big deal? Bangalore, also called "the garden city", is now a common business travel destination, for one, so there's a good chance you'll be going there in your lifetime. If it's being written off by your company, make sure to eke out that one day off and see the sites: Tipu Sultan's Fort and Palace, an 18th century masterpiece named after a ruler of the former Mysore (Karnataka's former name), scholar and poet Tippoo Sahib; Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens for its spectacular flower shows (including one now through Aug. 17); and the Venkataramanaswamy Temple, the Gavi Gangadhareswara cave temple, and the Someshwara Temple all have special allures. For those of us from the west, we may see a temple every now and then (and liken it to mysterious eastern religions we don't fully understand, perhaps) but they're as ubiquitous in India as KFC's are in our country. I recommend the Gavi Gangadhareswara, a mysterious little cave and shrine built sometime in the 9th century.
  • Learn how to cook delicious Indian food!: True, you can do this elsewhere in India, but as the most popular tourist destination, this area of the country is set up to help Americans and other travelers assimilate to the culture. Take cooking classes at Manju's and learn about paneer (which is like ricotta), naan, roti and much more. You'll smile as someone in LA offers you an Indian meal because no one makes it as authentically here as they do there.

For more information, please visit these sites:

Meanwhile, if you'd like to enjoy a nice Indian meal visit the US-based business www.indianasapplepie.com and order some of the Red Chile Powder, Turmeric Powder and Chaat Masala. IAP was started by an Indian American who wanted to introduce her young daughters to the delicious foods of her youth.

Say "Khuśa yātrā" if you want to speak Hindi (Happy Travels). But since they speak Kannada in Karnataka, learn "ವಿದಾಯ" or "Vidāya" for bye!

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